PR Niblets

Monday, November 22, 2010

Forced Obsolescence

I’m sitting at my desk trying to put a tape into the ancient walkman we have at the office, when my co-worker starts laughing hysterically.

“What’s so funny? It doesn’t fit!” I said, frustrated.

“I’m not laughing at you,” said Jules.

“Yes you are. Why?”

Jules takes the walkman from me and starts pulling the cassette I’ve jammed in it out.

“No, really I’m not. I’m laughing at the fact that you’re using that thing to record. You also realize that this tape isn’t for an audio recorder. It’s for a video recorder.”

“Oh,” I said, as my face drops. “Well they didn’t have any other tapes in the store.”

“You’re probably right. They probably don’t sell audio recording tapes anymore,” Jules laughed even more hysterically. “Come look at this.”

I begrudgingly roll over to his desk. “Do you see a record button anywhere?”

“No.”

“Right. This isn’t a recorder, it’s just a tape and radio player.”

“Damn it. Oh well, I guess I’m not recording the panels,” I said as I rolled back to my desk.

“Just download an audio recorder on your iPhone. That will probably work better than this would have even if it were an audio recorder.”

Within five minutes I downloaded Audio Memos for free and figured out how to use it. At this point, Henry returned from lunch wanting to know if I found a tape for the audio recorder and if I know how to use it. Jules and I laughed and explained the calamity of what had happened. Jules still finds it hilarious. This launched everyone in the office into a discussion about how much technology has changed over the past 20 years.

The most interesting part of this slightly frustrating situation is how significantly technology has changed. Sure, you hear this being said all the time, but this is the first real dramatic difference I’ve experienced. I remember walkmans and playing tapes when I was younger but then along came the CD walkman and of course CDs. After CDs everything turned digital - MP3 players, listening to streaming music, iPods, iPhones, and on and on. If I didn’t have an iPhone, I wouldn’t have been able to record our client’s panel that day.

Another thought occurred to me after both trade shows were over and I was downloading the recordings. How would I have saved the recordings if I had used the old audio recorder? It would’ve required a lot of effort to find a way to upload the file or I would have had to pass around the walkman with the recordings not the ideal scenario with our clients in Boston and California.

It’s fascinating to see the extreme changes in technology and how people and companies are adapting to them. I’ve watched my parents struggle, yet still get excited, by new innovations, such as the digital camera, digital video recorder, the Internet, blogs and much more. It makes me excited to see how the digital landscape will continue to change. It also makes me wonder, if changes in technology continue to happen as quickly as they have in the past 20 years, will I eventually become out of touch with the latest technologies on the market? Or, will my generation be so used to these changes that we automatically adjust? Only time will tell…

Friday, October 22, 2010

I went to the PRSA International Conference and all I got was a new sense of community…

Trust me, it was much better than a t-shirt! The 2010 PRSA International Conference, hosted by the D.C. Chapter, was an overload of information on all things PR, marketing and social media. Taking place from Oct. 17-19 at the Washington Hilton – fun fact: it’s also known as the “Hinckley Hilton” because Ronald Reagan was shot there by John Hinckley – the conference was an intense three days of keynote speakers, workshops, sessions and networking events.

Overall, it was very successful, I learned several new lessons, discussed many interesting topics from ethics to RFPs, and made some great connections (the last one is a given when you put a bunch of PR people in a room together). But of all the workshops and sessions I sat in (the total count was eight or nine), one major theme stuck out to me: Building your community.

It doesn’t matter how you build your community – platforms are agnostic. Whether email, snail mail, events, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, etc., you need to have a strategic plan and mission for your company’s public relations efforts.

PRSA proved this in the outreach to attendees throughout the conference. Between QR code games, tweet ups, live tweetchats, Facebook pages and mobile applications (basically everything but Wi-Fi was available), we were able to connect with the organization and our peers in almost every way possible.

Communities are the reason that we all travelled to D.C. by plane, train or automobile, in the first place…to connect with a community of like professionals and share useful information to better ourselves and our business practices. If it wasn’t for communities, social media wouldn’t exist…we’d still be hanging out in AOL chat rooms or doing three-way calls with our colleagues and friends. We should all thank jebus that technology is advancing so quickly nowadays! And no matter what, we should not get overwhelmed by all of it. We have to come to the realization that we’ll never be one step ahead of the next Twitter or Foursquare – we just need to do what is best for our businesses right now.

Since I would never be able to recap all of the amazing info that was shared, check out #prsa_ic for tweets from and about the conference. And visit Feintuch Communications on Facebook for photos and videos from my trip to D.C.!

Friday, September 24, 2010

Blogjam – Or How I’m Becoming a Social Media Convert (kicking and screaming, of course)

The ups and downs of social media, whether it be blogging, tweeting, playing foursquare or Facebooking really consist of two things: having something to say, and saying it effectively and regularly. As you can see from our Feintuch blog, this is a challenge even in the PR space. It’s also a primary argument I have with some of my clients and certainly my colleagues on occasion.

I think social media is great! Admittedly, I’m a luddite about it, but I truly see it as a tool that, when used effectively, can really propel a company or even a person forward in the public eye. And it certainly has a downside, as over-tweeting becomes tedious, people lose interest and certainly the effectiveness of the communication can be diminished (same as putting out a press release on a daily or even weekly basis).

But what happens when you have nothing to blog? Or things pile up (right Henry?) and you don’t have time to blog, or your social media budget runs dry and your blogger doesn’t work for free? What if you’re a small development-stage company that doesn’t really have any ongoing news?

The ups and downs of this 24/7 medium that we have created are that even if you have nothing to say, and no time in which to say it, you still need to be strategically part of the conversation for your industry. It’s the way people are going to find you, and they’re going to find you. But it’s also a way they’re going to find you relevant.

So if you're going to use it, it’s imperative you say something strategic and constructive: What’s happening in the industry that impacts your company? What’s happening locally that affects your employees or customers? What trade show or financial conference are you going to be attending next week? Or even respond to what others are saying (e.g., about healthcare reform) through a repost or commentary. Blog it, tweet it. But keep updating it and keep it on the regular (maybe not daily, maybe weekly or monthly).

I admit I may have changed my tune a little – even as I write this. Maybe it does make sense for the smaller companies to blog or tweet too. Maybe their having a Facebook page with regular notes about issues impacting their business, even if they don’t have ongoing news, does make sense. But it doesn’t make sense if it’s not regular, reliable, strategic and appropriate.

And yes, we need to continue to practice what we preach here at FC, too. Especially me. Time will tell, and so will the results for our clients. Christa, Savannah, I think you may have a convert on your hands...

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Word on the “Street”

Now that travel/vacation season is officially over (sniff, sniff) - I thought we’d reminisce about the summer and share all of the great things we experienced and conquered...

Now, I'm not sure if you’re like me, but every time I travel to a new place I can’t help but put my PR hat on. I’ll be at a restaurant or art exhibit that I absolutely LOVE and immediately have the desire to confront the owner to ask about his/her PR efforts and…can I help? It’s truly a disease. Are there any other PR pros out there that, after eating at an amazing, hidden gem of a restaurant or after visiting a sweet boutique resort off the beaten track, want to grab their smartphones or laptops and immediately post to their social networks that “I was here!”?? Or, are you NOT in PR and you’ve done this!? Then, welcome to the wide world of PR, my friends.

Thanks to social networks, everyone can practice PR now! Word of mouth is one of the best forms of marketing and PR that a brand can have. It’s a fact of life – if you like something, you want to talk about it. But as we know, this goes both ways, if you hate something, you are definitely going to tell the world how much you hate it.

Enter your PR agency.

For businesses (both b2b and b2c), PR agencies help to control the flow of the social network super highway by constantly monitoring and thinking about the next steps for a social media program. If one of your customers loves your new cafĂ©, chances are they want to become the mayor of it on Foursquare and claim themselves as your biggest fan on Facebook. This in turn increases the chances that their friends/family/colleagues will want to try it for themselves. Newspapers and magazines post pass along rates, which are how many people read a publication without having a subscription (think a magazine sitting in a dentist’s office). This same principle applies to the social media buzz rate. If something is buzzworthy, people are going to pass it along. A PR agency can help you handle the buzz and develop a plan that shows your mayor (i.e. your biggest customer) that you appreciate his/her business.

We all have to remember that social media in its simplest form is a promotional vehicle. For my generation, it’s a little bit easier. When my parents take a picture of themselves, they don’t scream, “OMG, this is going on Facebook!” after they review the picture. Younger generations are constantly thinking in terms of “who can I show/tell” and “how can I get noticed” – the core philosophies of advertising and PR.

To prove this point of the generation gap, I have to refer to a story my dad recently told me. My aunt took my mom and dad out to eat at this great little place in Central Jersey with fresh Italian food. The restaurant was practically empty when they went in and boasted half-price appetizers every night. My aunt told my dad, “Now make sure you don’t tell anyone about this place, because if you tell people about a good thing, it might not be a good thing anymore!” I truly disagree with this statement. Wouldn’t a business want more business so that they can keep their good thing going? Groupon has made their whole business off of encouraging people to spread the word about a special or deal. And with all types of social networks and groups (from books to cars to widgets) – the opportunity to promote a growing business is getting easier.

A customer wants to feel like they are special when they visit and promote a particular local business to others and an owner wants to please their local patrons while enticing new customers. With social media, whether you are an enterprise software company or a cinnamon bun bakery, you need to recognize that your customer are your own little PR army! And your PR agency is the General, helping to wrangle the troops!

It’s time to recognize that word of mouth is social media and social media is PR!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Slow Down and Edit!


There’s nothing worse in the PR world than misinformation. The slightest variation of a word, a decimal point, or emphasis can make the difference between a positive message and a negative one. But in this age of rapid-fire email and real-time communications, the simple act of spending some time editing written communications could mean a tremendous difference and increase its effectiveness exponentially.

Here’s a recent example. We were facilitating a series of interviews for a client with an influential trade publication. In providing the reporter background information, we included a White Paper that had been developed for the client to explain its technology and the general benefits of its use. I received an email from the reporter with several questions, one of which had to do with a mathematical figure that was designed to demonstrate the efficiency and power of the technology. But when he quoted me the figure, he felt it didn’t quite jibe with the messaging.

We wound up going back to the original authors of the paper only to discover that the way they expressed the technology’s energy efficiency was inaccurate. A decimal point too many places to the right and utilizing the wrong metric measurement made it seem pretty useless because the way it was written made it seem like it used one third of the energy that it was supposed to have produced. Fortunately, catching the error demonstrated that our client’s technology was much more viable than it would have appeared had the editorial mistake not been caught. But this was a White Paper that was being delivered as promotional material to prove the company’s concept!

And how embarrassing that the analysts who developed the piece didn’t realize the mistake, and it took several years and a member of the media to uncover it?

Of course there are other examples, one of which I’m told is Henry’s favorite. It almost sounds like a joke, but here goes: apparently there was a PR firm that didn’t do a very good job of editing their own press releases, as it seemed they provided one particular client pubic relations counsel.

The moral of these stories? Even in this fast-paced, real-time, supercharged environment in which we find ourselves, taking the extra five minutes, three seconds even, to edit what we say and how we say it, can make all the difference in the world – and make us all seem a lot smarter.



Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Oh Analysts, How I Love Thee? Let Me Count The Ways…

Reason #1,486 why I love working with industry analysts – they tell it like it is! What other third-party resource knows your client’s industry inside and out? They know who the competition is and what they are doing and they are NOT afraid to tell you the honest to goodness truth.As a strategic PR firm, we always recommend an industry analyst program as part of our ongoing PR efforts for most (if not all) of our clients. Industry analysts are the eyes and ears of many industries (from advertising/media to energy, and of course tech) and, unlike journalists these days, they LOVE a good background meeting. With shrinking newsrooms and continuous deadlines, most reporters aren’t interested in spending an hour (or a half hour for that matter) listening to your client babble on about themselves. But an analyst will! They are patient and engaged and most importantly, they always ask the right questions.

Just the other day on the phone with IDC, a tier-one industry analyst group that we pitched and coordinated a briefing with, the analyst and my client went on for more than an hour discussing the market and the future of the telecommunications industry. Suffice it to say, the analyst and my client are now “buddy-buddy” and I know she’ll be coming to us with more questions and requests for background info in the future.

But besides the feel-good stuff that analysts do by providing an ear to bend, they write reports (read by our clients’ customers), they talk to the press constantly, they speak at many large venues with key target audiences, they tweet, they blog, they publish books, they adopt puppies… I’m not entirely sure about the last one, but I wouldn’t be surprised!

The only thing that you must be aware of is that industry analyst programs do NOT produce instant results. Like most PR programs, you need to invest time and effort by following up with the analysts and keeping them up to speed on the latest news and product releases from your client. Like some media outlets, they also like to know about things in advance, which might mean letting them “see behind the curtain” to a new product or service that is not quite fully baked yet. This can be difficult (or very easy) depending on the client. But in the long run, these types of programs do pay off. So if you aren’t incorporating an industry analyst program into your public relations campaign, I hope this has, at least, helped you to consider it.

(Photo Credit:  Mike Arauz)

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

AATOTW

(Acronyms Are Taking Over The World)






















Every so often, something will set off my Women’s soccer team (plug warning: the amazing NY Smoking Aces) to have an extensively long, usually hilarious, email chain. The last one was counted at more than 80 emails. There are 18 of us on the team, so I’m sure that doesn’t help. Especially when the reply all button is so easy to use. But I digress. Towards the end of the last massive email chain, one of the girls used FTW in a sentence. This perpetuated the emails further as apparently very few knew what that stood for. For those of you reading this that don’t either, it’s For The Win. This prompted another girl to email and ask us to decipher ILYVM&WYWH, which her mother had sent her in an email. The solution to this riddle as answered by another teammate was “I Love You Very Much & Wish You Were Here.” No clue how she figured that one out!

The point of all this, besides the hilarity of the responses between my teammates, is that I’ve noticed the use of acronyms has gone beyond email and text exchanges amongst friends and is being used more widely in business correspondence. In fact, that same day I received an email from a reporter filled with acronyms. It took me a few reads to completely understand what he was saying. A couple of months ago, I received an email response from an analyst informing me he was working on a report on LBS. After checking with my co-worker, I had to write back and ask what that meant! Location Based Services it turned out, like Foursquare he politely explained. We even use acronyms in the office to shorten client’s names – LWM, IAI, MBO, TLB etc.

Acronyms have been used for a long time, but it occurred to me after the email exchange with my soccer team how the usage of acronyms has become more common when physically speaking to others and in business. This made me question why acronyms have become so prevalent. Does it have to do with the wider use of Facebook and Twitter for branding purposes. Twitter does only allow 140 characters, making acronyms the best solution. Or, have we become lazy? Or, does it make us feel cool? A special, secret code that only the cool, smart kids can figure out and are aware of?

No matter the question, the answer is an interesting one to contemplate. What effect will this have on the English language? You hear/see in the news how Gen Y is less literate than older generations. Will acronyms contribute and perpetuate to our country's illiteracy rates? O,WWASTTIC&SLR? (Or, will we all start to talk in code and sound like robots?) As someone who deals with writing and reading on a daily basis as the main part of my job, and loves it, it’s very interesting to think about the consequences.

Just consider how many phrases and slang words have become a main part of our vocabulary. “Yea” instead of “yes.” “Rad,” “That’s Hot” (my personal favorite), “props,” “lame,” “gonna,” "sweet," “yeah right.” These have definitely changed our vocabulary and flow into business and even reporters writing (depending upon the publication). While change isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it’s still change.

The ultimate question then is, will acronyms have a big impact on our vocabulary? Or, will it just be a fad that fades out, much like the hairstyles of the 80’s? It will certainly be interesting to see. If we’re not careful, pretty soon we’ll have acronym dictionaries replacing Webster’s (there are a few that already exist online). Personally, while it made for a hilarious email exchange with my teammates, I hope the acronym fad doesn’t take over the PR or media world.

OAO (Over and Out)

(Photo Credit: Random Jess' Blog)

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The Forbidden Dance - B2B & Social Media (Warning: This blog post has nothing to do with the Lambada!)

Earlier this month during Internet Week in NYC, our very own Henry Feintuch organized a PRSA-NY panel discussion on how to get B2B companies to embrace social media.

If you missed it (like I did), below are some snippets from the discussion which featured speakers such as Bloomberg Social Media Lead Ron Casalotti; Capgemini Assistant Director of External Communications Jonathan Blank; CB Richard Ellis Senior Director for Brand Management Ron Houghtaling; Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver and Jacobson Senior Business Development and Market Technology Advisor Alison Rooney; MS&L VP of Digital and Social Media Doug Winfield; and SAP Americas Director of Online Marketing and Social Media Michael Brenner:





To view all of the videos on the panel discussion, search YouTube for "PRSA-NY: The Forbidden Dance? B2B and Social Media."

Monday, June 21, 2010

Footie? Soccer? No, It's A PR Opportunity!

















PR is EVERYWHERE! Even in South Africa at the FIFA World Cup (that’s the football – soccer for us Americans- world championship held every four years). And this year’s cup is a potential PR extravaganza!

If you’ve been living under a rock, the United States side rallied to come back from a 2-0 deficit against Slovenia on June 17th, and appeared to have scored a third goal for the win in the last five minutes of the match. Mr. Coulibaly was the referee of the match and disallowed the potentially winning goal based on a mysterious off-sides call that has yet to be confirmed or the culprit identified.

So where’s the PR? Well, first, that most people reading this blog are aware of the situation means that basically, as several ESPN commentators put it, Mr. Coulibaly did more for soccer/football in the US in one match than ANYONE had accomplished in the last 100 years. Americans are now tuning into the World Cup in increased numbers, if nothing else, to lend their support to the U.S. side and cheer them on as they attempt to make the quarter final round (see the double-header on June 23). If this doesn’t demonstrate the power of a word of mouth campaign, I’m not sure what does. I hope Adidas, Puma, and Nike are paying close attention. The window’s closing on that news cycle, so you’d better get moving.

Now that’s not to say that there haven’t been some interesting attempts at viral marketing and other PR stunts at the Cup, despite rules that prevent any companies who have not paid for advertising to do any promotions. In fact, two women wearing short orange skirts trying to do some guerilla marketing were arrested as they were promoting a Dutch beer (much to the annoyance of Cup sponsor Budweiser). FIFA gets the difference; they just want to make sure they control the message for their sponsors.

Secondly, I’m afraid Mr. Coulibaly and FIFA are going to need a little crisis counseling. You can’t disallow a beautifully executed goal by one of the world’s leading economies who are considered an underdog in a potentially pivotal match and not have to answer a few questions from the media. While FIFA is currently protecting Mr. Coulibaly, and actions are expected to be taken to prevent him from being the primary referee in any future matches, he’s going to need some messaging help.

Now if we could just meet the guy who invented the vuvuzela...

(Photo credit: Gabriel Bouys/AFP/Getty Images)

Friday, May 7, 2010

Hedging Your Bets in PR

Standing in the infield with my big floppy hat, my feet caked with mud, and the tension spreading through the massive crowd of 150,000 people all rooting for the most exciting two minutes in sports, I couldn’t help thinking about work. Did I reach out to both the early morning and nighttime bookers at CNN? Did I hit the long shot – Today Show? Did I reach out to the sure thing – the marketing trades? I know it may seem odd to compare the 136th Kentucky Derby to PR but my experience last weekend made me realize the similarities.

Over the past month our team has been in hardcore pitching mode for a client that recently released a major branding report that took multiple man hours to complete and an assiduous marketing team to promote. Between the planning discussions, brainstorming, editing and finalizing, I would have bet $1 million that we were a sure thing for the morning, afternoon and late evening news. I even dreamt about Katie Couric reporting that, “Google was named the top brand of the year…” and that my client’s name was on the teaser at the bottom of the TV, “Next up: Brand Consulting Firm Releases Top 100 Global Brands…” We were a sure thing!

But even in PR you can’t always bet on the sure thing -- especially when a little company called Goldman Sachs appears before the Senate Investigations subcommittee or when a major oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico ruins a lot of people’s weeks… Both breaking news stories pushed our news aside but we continued to push through it and not give up in the 13th hour.

This same principle applies in horse racing – a horse with opening odds of 12-1 (Super Saver) could outrun the 3-1 favorite (Looking at Lucky) when the clouds roll in and the track goes from “fast” to “sloppy.” You never know what could happen out there so you trust your gut and keep on riding.

So lesson learned: hedge your bets. In PR, this could mean that you’re willing to comment on late breaking news that might indirectly tie to your company; or it could mean coming up with a vertical strategy by reaching out to publications that certain breaking news is less relevant to. But always remember to not give up - be prepared to keep riding the news cycle because you never know who might come out on top. Giddy up!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Remembering Carol Friend

May 2, 2010

Mr. Peter Walker
Chairman
PIELLE Consulting Ltd.
Museum House
London WC1A PL
United Kingdom

Dear Peter:

I hope this note finds you well and rested after Thursday's memorial service for our friend and partner, Carol Friend. Given our extra long layover in Paris due to the Icelandic volcano, it was impossible to sneak out of the U.S. again for Carol's memorial service.



But I wanted to send this note to you, and perhaps ask for you to share it with her mum, Ida, and family, so that I can express my feelings and respect for someone I considered an extraordinary human being, professional and friend.

I've only come to know Carol well since the early 2000s (my loss) through involvement in ECP Global. We quickly became close colleagues, allies and collaborators on a host of business issues. Her counsel was always wise, her wry humor omniprescent and her pragmatic approach to solving problems and getting to the finish line a strong comfort. I treasure the time we worked together on Octal, emoze and other common clients.

Carol was both a deep individual/thinker as well as a humane person. She volunteered her time and energy and always operated with a strong ethical compass. I learned to trust her and treasure her advice.

I personally looked forward to our shopping expeditions in many world capitals and the joy she found when we went to the Woodbury Commons outlet mall in New York together after she bounced back from a round of surgery. She took particular glee in finding some Anne Fontaine blouses at outrageously low American prices.
As much a sense of loss that I feel here, I can only imagine the one you feel after working, sweating and laughing together with Carol as your business partner for more than 30 years. My thoughts and prayers continue for you, your staff and your clients, to Ida Friend and the rest of the family.

Despite our sadness, I hope that you all take solace in the fact that the public relations industry on both sides of the Atlantic, is a better institution due to Carol Friend. We will miss her, remember her and cherish our times together.

Sincerely,


Henry Feintuch
President
Feintuch Communications &
Director, ECP Global Communication

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

JumpStarting a Second Business

Last year, at the height of the recession while jobs were being shed and the PR industry was contracting, we launched Feintuch Communications.

Many friends and colleagues questioned our timing; others offered their congratulations for our bold timing and going against the tide. The truth is it was both a scary period while at the same time liberating, exciting and empowering. Imagine -- the chance to build a new, ethically run business focused on the needs of our clients with little corporate baggage getting in the way.

Despite the worst recession in generations and a healthy share of unplanned start-up business challenges, our fledgling firm has grown. We added clients, many of whom expanded their programs with us; launched a healthcare and life sciences practice; expanded our corporate identity, marketing services and digital media offerings; and developed a joint venture investor relations practice.

That kept us busy through TODAY when we launched our sister company -- JumpStart Global Advisors (http://www.jumpstartglobal.com/). This newest venture had a slightly longer gestation period than the six weeks it took to conceive of and launch Feintuch Communications.

The back story: About eight years ago, I was staffing a Supercomm trade show booth in Atlanta for Celvibe, a now defunct Israeli wireless infrastructure company. A young attorney approached me, and believing that I was part of the Celvibe management team, began to pitch me on establishing a U.S. base of operations for "our" company.


Scott Gordon explained that his company, Gordon Global Associates (http://www.gordonglobal.com/), based in Lynbrook, N.Y., actively supported "international companies" seeking to establish a footprint in North America. His services ranged from establishment of the business, to legal, accounting, finance and back office support. I asked him about the obviously missing marketing component before I explained to Scott that I was a fellow New Yorker and a partner in a public relations firm.

We met up in New York and developed a friendship and informal referral network. Prospects liked the concept but its casual nature was a difficult sell. And my former agency business colleagues didn't understand how a venture of this sort would help our firm.

Last year, Scott and Gordon Global helped launch Feintuch Communications with a modified set of services that the company provided to overseas entities. It worked like a charm. So we restarted collaboration talks and decided that if we were to marry our businesses, we needed to provide additional critical services including recruiting/staffing solutions to help overseas companies to internationalize here.

Enter Don Zinn.

Don, another of my former clients and a friend, is a serial entrepreneur with more than 30years of sales, management and hiring experience. He has built and run many of his own high tech businesses and is now an executive vice president at Starpoint Solutions (http://www.starpointsolutions.com/), a leading solutions, staffing and executive search firm headquartered in New York City. Scott and I approached Don with our business concept; Don signed right on and we jumped in to begin business planning.

During the second half of 2009, and through 2010, we continued to meet to decide how our organization would work, what it would be called, how we would render services and how we would promote it. We developed our corporate identity, slowly built our Web site, began calling on prospects and today issued our launch press release (www.jumpstartglobal.com/newsroom).

We've already enjoyed success in attracting world-class partners to the JumpStart Global Advisors umbrella (announcements to follow) and have now been invited by IE Singapore to host a "Doing Business in the U.S." seminar
(www.iesingapore.eventshub.sg/Default.aspx?CalID=1&EventID=135) in Singapore starting May 25.

So 16 months into being an entrepreneur, the score is two companies and growing. The only scary part of it now is what happens when the economy improves?

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Coming Clean

Dear God,

I am writing this apology note because I feel I owe you an explanation for my failed attempt to give something up for Lent. While I tried to not log onto Facebook for 40 days and 40 nights, it seems the task proved to be too difficult. I am an addict and a bit of a stalker and for this I apologize. I have finally recognized that I have a problem.

If I had only checked the site once or twice I don’t think I would feel as guilty, but we both know that is not the case. I will point out however that I did not post any pictures or status updates and limited my time spent to four short minutes only every few hours. I think we can both acknowledge this is quite an improvement over my non-Lent habits.

With so many conversations I am having with friends and family starting with, “Did you see on Facebook….,” it is hard to not be on it. For those first three days that I didn’t log onto the site I was out of touch and my friends and family were forced to recap highlights – what a waste of time for them!

I think you would agree that if Facebook existed just a few years ago it would have drastically improved your marketing efforts as well as your relationship with your son Jesus. Think about it, you would have known where he drifted off to in his twenties as you could have seen the photos he uploaded of him and his new friends the Buddhists. You could have finally gotten some real insight into his connection to Mary Magdalene. His profile may have read “In a Relationship” or even “Married.”

While I was not able to give up Facebook for the full Lent season I did learn a valuable lesson about the importance of social media. You really do work in mysterious ways. I won’t be giving up Facebook again anytime soon and I have you to thank for showing me the way – lesson learned.


All the Best,

Jeannine

Monday, April 12, 2010

Booth Babes to Bearchive

I’ve definitely come across some interesting information and requests working in PR. What follows is one of those times, when I was encountered with not one, but two bizarre and funny events from two very different clients in one week.

A couple of weeks ago, we were ramping up and preparing for one of our clients to attend a trade show, here in New York. We were helping with a lot of the logistical elements of attending the show in addition to conducting media outreach. In the middle of all this preparation, I received an email asking me to hire two “models” dubbed “booth babes” in the office for good reason, to pass out fliers at the conference. Not only was I to contact a modeling agency to hire the two girls, but our client had specific characteristics he wanted each of the girls to have.

He wanted a blonde and a brunette.

Initially, I thought this seemed slightly silly and fully expected to get laughed at on the phone when I called the modeling agency. I also was highly skeptical that there was even a modeling agency for "flier girls." Turns out I was wrong; seriously wrong. Apparently this is common at trade shows. The couple of modeling agencies I contacted all sent me portfolios of girls they had available and didn’t bat an eyelash when I asked for a blonde and brunette. The portfolios were real modeling pictures – pictures of the girls' swimsuits as well as other garb. Of course, they didn’t wear swimsuits to the conference, although that definitely would have attracted more attention to our booth.

The second hilarity of the week came from another client who is in the process of launching a new product. They have been laboring over choosing a product name, often asking us for advice and feedback on various candidates. We received an email that they had finally decided on one – Bearchive. We were all ecstatic as the launch is only a few weeks away. However, on our weekly call, the same week of booking the booth babes, our client informed us they are no longer going with Bearchive. When pressed as to why, our client shyly told us to check out bearchive.com. The site can only be described as soft porn featuring girls with enhanced (seriously retouched)big boobs. Laughter ensued followed by nods of the head concurring that another name was in order.

Needless to say, it was an interesting and stressful week, although one filled with lots of laughter. Just goes to show that you never know what to expect in the world of PR and sometimes all you can do is shrug your shoulders and laugh.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Jules Version 4.0 Working on the Weekend

It was the first month of my tenure here at Feintuch Communications as the brand new head of our brand new healthcare and life sciences practice, and one of our brand new clients needed to appear brand new at a trade show I’d never been to before.

Anyone who’s ever worked at a trade show knows how intense they are, both in the preparation and in the execution of the work. So to say that it was stressful would be an understatement. Except we only had two weeks to prepare for the show – do all of the creative, draft and produce all of the content, oversee all of the production, not to mention staffing – the whole magila. Two weeks. Two. Weeks.

After a momentous push by our superstar team, and some last minute crisis management, we managed to get the client to the show and demonstrating the product to passersby.

Cut to day two of the show, and I’m on my way home from a long day of booth management, having to get into a tuxedo for a gala celebration that night. I’m literally one block from my apartment door when I’m accosted by a group of garrulous individuals wearing t-shirts that say “jules 4.0…”

Needless to say, my curiosity is piqued.

As I’m reading their t-shirts, trying to figure out what they mean, the loudest of the group grabs me by the arm and tells me I simply must have a drink with them. I’d had a day already, so the idea wasn’t out of the question, but technically, I was on the clock, and don’t like to indulge. Also, I was scarfing down a slice of pizza in preparation for what could have been a night of necessary imbibing at the hands of a new client and a fairly new employer. But to be accosted in the street by strangers and implored to drink with them?

I explained very demurely that I would love to have a drink with this mob (who wants to take chances), but that I really had to get home and change for a work event, and could I take a rain check. They were not having it. They absolutely insisted, explaining all of the benefits of having a drink with them (carefully leaving out the potential damage they could have done to my person). I agreed, indicating that this agreement was based only on the fact that they were wearing t-shirts with my name on them. This information incited the rowdy crowd even more – they gathered around me, took pictures with me as part of the group, and ushered me across the street to the bar on the corner – Cowgirl (a plug for them – they’re quite good). All the while, the group was cheering and making overtures that they were “going to get extra points for this one!” I wondered if it was the suit or the name. I wondered what “extra points” entailed. Would I ever see my beloved wife and child again? Would I be allowed to escape the labrynthian confines of Cowgirl? Either way, I’d never been considered extra points before, so I was intrigued.

Finally, upon one more picture being taken at the back of the bar, it was finally explained to me. A woman named Jules was having her 40th birthday party at Cowgirl (another plug, they have a nice party room in the back) and had asked all of her friends (and she has a lot – way to go Jules!) to go on an “Amazing Race”-like adventure. One of the requirements was to usher a stranger into the bar and have a drink with them. My being named Jules did indeed garner the yellow team extra points, and me a yellow Jules 4.0 t-shirt.

So Happy 40th Jules. I’m right behind you soon. And thanks for an amazing (and kind of weird) 15 minutes sandwiched between a wacky couple of workdays.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Creating a Healthcare and Life Sciences PR Practice

Sometimes you develop elaborate plans and hope to implement them carefully. Other times, stuff happens.

This is an example of the latter.

Now in our second year, our strategic relations firm and PR practice are growing. That's despite the economy... minimal capitalization.. and other challenges of starting up a small business. We've added a significant investor relations partnership with MS-IR, headed up by Miri Segal, and together successfully added several clients. The potential for growing integrated IR/PR business is significant. More on this later.

Our friend and colleague, Steph Johnson, left for a new and exciting opportunity with a UK-based financial technology PR firm. We'll miss her decidely offbeat sensibilities but will continue to collaborate as appropriate. Steph and I have worked together twice; we both feel the threat of a third time looming.

Which takes us to healthcare. It's always been an important sector in the PR industry. And in recent years, the market has expanded aggressively into numerous related segments including medical devices, pharma and life sciences. I've been on the periphery many times -- and worked on many accounts in the space -- but truly never became the domain expert. At my last firm, I watched a significant healthcare/life sciences practice develop and ultimately walk out the door.

At Feintuch Communications, we served an initial client in the category and began incubating and working with several more. Many other leads began to materialize. Opportunity was knocking at our door... and then... serendipity struck in the form of Jules Abraham.

While searching for a healthcare freelancer for a former client, I met Jules -- again.

It turns out that we met briefly several years ago but the timing wasn't right and we each went our separate ways. Now, at age 39 (and sharing my May 3 birthday), and with Jules "between jobs" as so many PR practitioners can lament over the last 18 months, we restarted our conversation.

First and most importantly, Jules is a nice guy. His business credentials are equally impressive. He brings nearly 15 years of healthcare and life sciences public and investor relations experience. He's worked in nearly all aspects of the healthcare and life sciences industry including large and specialty pharmaceutical, biotechnology, clinical diagnostics and medical device companies, as well as small health systems, regional hospitals, managed care organizations, Medicare Part D providers and advocacy groups.

Previously, he helped launch and manage the healthcare public relations division at Lippert/Heilshorn & Associates. He also served in the global healthcare group at GCI Group and held positions at Manning, Selvage & Lee, Zeno Group and GTFH Public Relations.

He earned a bachelor's degree in philosophy from the College of William & Mary and a master's degree in public communications/journalism from Fordham University. He lives in New York with his wife, Dana, son and two cats.

So now, the chance timing of our meeting again was amazingly right. We had clients ready to join the firm but we lacked the expertise to serve them properly. Jules had clients and former clients that wanted to work with him but preferred a more stable agency environment. We talked; we planned; we started to work together over the last few months.

Now, Jules has joined our firm as a vice president and managing director of our healthcare and life sciences practice. We've tied the practice to our investor relations partnership. This allows us to offer an integrated public and investor relations package to companies seeking to go public, or those that are public but are seeking better coordination of their messaging and outreach to Wall Street, Main Street and the media.

The formal press release goes out this week and soon we'll be announcing our initial clients. Wish us luck; send us your referrals; and call/write to meet Jules. In addition to talking healthcare, get him started on his days in the Peace Corps as a volunteer (where he became fluent in Spanish), his songwriting and his work as a "not-so-accomplished" Naam yoga practitioner. If the conversation goes well, he might even offer you a copy of his recent CD of original music for meditation.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

A Device Free World

Imagine a world where everything you do is device-free. No laptops, Blackberries or iPods. Calling a friend would be done using your hand as the keypad and phone. Videos could be watched anywhere and anytime and all you’ll need is a piece of paper to watch them on. Merging physical and digital documents would be as simple as cutting and pasting the physical document using your hands and pasting it onto your computer to combine it with the digital document.

Sounds like a scene from the movie “Minority Report” with Tom Cruise? Something future-esque? Star Trek like? Well, in a couple of years it may be reality. In the world of PR our clients often send us interesting tidbits related to their realm of expertise. The latest one came when our client was discussing what she sees as “the next big leap in science and technology over the next five years and how it will affect business and society at large.” She responded with the clip below:



SixthSense technology, as it’s called, is “worn” by an individual on their fingers and uses that person’s gestures and motions to allow them to interact with information. The keyword here is interact. You can use your fingers as a camera to take a picture. Newspapers become interactive tools that show broadcast clips of news reported or updated weather information specific to where the user is located. As our client put it – “it’s the merging of the physical and digital.”

Imagine marketing this puppy to the masses. True 24/7 connectedness no matter where a person is. Truly life changing technology for consumers.

While I like the idea of not having to carry around multiple devices anymore, it’s also a scary thought. To always be connected means you never turn off. It’s hard enough as it is to get away from always being connected. Losing my phone over the weekend was kind of a blessing – I spent Sunday talking to no one and relaxing on my own.

But the implementation of SixthSense technology is better than it is worse. It’ll be interesting to see if the technology comes to fruition in the next five years and how much it will affect society as it is today.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Extra, Extra, Read All About It - Snowmaggedon Hits Super Bowl Weekend Following a Major Market Drop

Let it break, let it break, let it break. Breaking news is a PR person’s best friend…and worst enemy. It can spark a trend and help to build an expert or it can ruin a planned press announcement and overshadow a feature story. Back in the days of yellow journalism, outrageous and flamboyant, breaking news headlines sold papers. With the decline of print magazines and newspapers, the media relies so heavily on just one little click to stay alive.

Last week with Snowmaggedon, the Super Bowl, and a fairly big drop in the market, one story after another seemed to scream, “Click on me!” But, is a headline the only line in a press release that matters?

Most PR pros will tell you yes, if you can’t grab the reporter’s or consumer’s attention in 140 characters or less (thanks to microblogging) then the reader will not continue reading and your whole story is lost anyway.

In our PR firm, however, it’s been an age old discussion (much like the chicken or the egg) as to what comes first – the headline or the news story. Some believe that a headline should simply be written after you nail the lead paragraph – while others believe a headline should be written first to set the tone of the story and be the glue that holds the pieces together.

With the average length of a news cycle being hours or at most a few days, PR pros are constantly reverting back to the days of yellow journalism and using eye-catching headlines to draw in readers. The run up to the Super Bowl last week is the perfect example with multiple stories and segments (shameless client plug: http://www.cnbc.com/id/15840232?video=1405763867&play=1) on Super Bowl commercials and who the big “players” were this year - almost overshadowing the excitement around the game itself. The game was actually very exciting with a great comeback by the Saints - but there were few commercials that really were able to stand up to all of the hype around them! My personal favorites were Google's commercial and Letterman's featuring Jay Leno and Oprah! It’s funny to see that the build-up is sometimes bigger than the actual event.

And in the case of Snowmaggedon (duh duh dunnnn), most areas just looked at it as another storm to dig out of…we’re supposed to get another Snowmaggedon this week! Batter down the hatches – it’s the end of the world!!!!!

Now that got your attention!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Words Really Do Matter!

As professional communicators, public relations practitioners are true believers in the persuasive power of words, regardless of the format in which they are presented. However, many of us worry that information overload – brought on by a seemingly unending creation of snazzy, electronic gadgets – has forever distracted and fragmented the audiences we strive to reach.

The good news is that those we aim to influence are no more ready to throw in the towel and look elsewhere than we, as originators and purveyors of newsworthy information, should be. As a matter of fact, the rationale and need for strategic wordsmithing has never been greater. It’s all about making what we have to write and say for our clients be both compelling and accessible.

At least that’s my take from a recently released major study, “How Much information? 2009 Report on American Consumers,” conducted by the University of California San Diego’s Global Information Industry Center (http://hmi.ucsd.edu/howmuchinfo.php). This report confirms that our thirst for knowledge and novelty has actually kept pace with the plethora of devices and technologies for conveying all that information.

UCSD research finds that the average American’s information consumption was 100,000 words, or roughly 34 gigabytes per day in 2008, equivalent to about one-fifth of a notebook PC’s hard drive, depending on the model. Over the past 30 years, the study estimates that information bytes consumed by U.S. households increased by 350 percent, for an average annual growth rate of 5.4 percent. In 2008 alone, total bytes consumed equaled the information (words!) stored in thick paperback novels stacked seven feet high over the entire U.S., including Alaska!

It’s perhaps noteworthy that the researchers chose this “written word” analogy to illustrate their point about rising American information consumption. Contrary to popular wisdom, we’re reading three times more words than we were in the early 1980s, before computers entered the information mainstream to challenge and ultimately displace TV and radio. While the share of printed words read by Americans for informational purposes declined from 25 percent in 1960 to 9 percent in 2008, the share of words read from the Internet and computer programs is now about 27 percent. E-mail, texting and “a lot of Web browsing is still in the form of reading,” according to Roger Bohn, director of the UCSD GIIC.

As the tremendous popularity of Kindles, BlackBerrys, notebook PCs and now iSlate tablet e-readers demonstrates, the importance and weight of the written, or filed, word to convey news and ideas remains vital. UCSD’s report concludes that “reading is the overwhelming preferred way to receive words on the Internet,” rendering press release writers’ output more relevant than ever in the Age of e-Information Technology.

To paraphrase loosely the other-wordly message that inspires farmer-baseball fan Ray Kinsela (Kevin Costner) in the 1989 movie classic, Field of Dreams, “If We Build and Strategically Issue Good Content, They Will Read It.”

Monday, January 11, 2010

Things That Changed PR in the Past Decade (aka: I Always Wanted to Create a List Like This)



Unless you live under a rock, you probably noticed the hundreds of "list" articles over the last two weeks remembering all things 2009 and the past decade from fashion to quotes, to lists of lists, and even some cool videos. As much as we all love these articles, I didn't see anything for my PR/marketing colleagues out there as a reminder of all the things and events that changed our profession. So here's my short list of what I believe changed PR in the past decade:

The Social Media Revolution
We all know what a little thing called social media did for people around the world, but for PR and Marketing pros, it was instrumental in helping us to cut the fat and listen to our audiences. Sites like Facebook and Twitter stress pithiness in our pitches and allow us to geo-target our audiences. In addition, when the FCC called out disclosures for promoting clients and companies on social media sites, we all became a little more interested in the truth. I could go on for ages about how social media has changed PR but I also think it’s very important to note the effect that it had for some agencies and companies in the creation of new job roles and departments. Agencies began hiring social media experts (shiver) and directors. In the end, I think it's crucial that we all know and understand social media. We don’t ask interviewees if they are proficient in newspapers, do we?

The Economic Crisis
In the financial services industry (one of the hardest hit by the crisis), many PR pros coped with limited or no PR budgets. The PR teams that survived were forced to focus on smaller projects that would be sure to show ROI and not just fabulous events and excursions. But even for clients not in financial services, budgets were limited and PR/marketing folks were faced with difficult challenges.

Declining Newsrooms
The start of declining newsrooms happened earlier in the decade with the emergence of online news sites but the effects were felt in 2009 as shrinking newsrooms forced PR pros to look for alternative ways (i.e. pitches via Twitter) to grab the attention of the press. In-person meetings turned into 10-minute phone calls and eventually into email Q and As. But has this made us better story tellers and given us a keener eye? Only time with tell.

The Accidental Entrepreneur
For many people in PR, downsizing led to a growth in freelancers and start-up firms. Smaller firms have the ability to grow with their clients and in my opinion (but I may be biased), work harder to stay ahead of the competition. In addition, I believe PR entrepreneurs understand the challenges and travails of being a start-up and are therefore more in-tune than larger PR firms. Entrepreneurs are the backbone of the rising economy, and together with clients, are rebuilding it one day at a time.

Democratization of Blogs
Its amazing how many mommy bloggers are really out there! Blogging has become so ubiquitous that even my group of foodie girlfriends has a blog talking about what we eat. In PR, blogging is a great way for young and old professionals to hone their writing skills. As communicators we should be reading and writing blogs because they are the ideal medium for sharing instant knowledge, information and experiences with all types of audiences. So blog on pros, blog on!

Death of the Fax Machine
This slow death technically started a while back but the fax seemed to completely fizzle towards the end of the decade cemented by the fact that not many reporters and newsrooms accept faxes any longer. PR pros may use them to get a signed contract every now and then, but with scanners, emails and even the eFax, you can send a document just as quickly and easily.

PR for PR
I’ve noticed over the last few years that more and more PR pros are stepping forward to talk to the press openly about their expertise. Typically, PR firms have little time to think about their own brand when they are busy promoting their clients. However, in a time when personal and company brand image means everything, PR pros are doing what they are good at and promoting their own brands and images to the press and through social media. What good is a PR firm if they can't do PR for themselves anyway!

This ends my list, but FULL DISCLOSURE, my PR career only spans about half of the past decade, so I know I've missed major events that changed PR and marketing like 9/11 and the Dot Com Bust. So, I’d like to encourage everyone to comment on this post by adding on the things I missed. As JFK said: "Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future."


Happy New Decade!

Friday, January 1, 2010

Happy "Elite" New Year

It's January 1, 2010 and I'm just back from my annual ritual -- the "mileage run." I didn't really yearn for Texas in December. Cancun was guaranteed hotter.... but not enough miles. Chicago had more to do and better food to eat... but it also fell short. San Antonio, at 4,700 miles roundtrip, was just right.

For those in the know, and nodding your heads with understanding if not compassion, this is the time of year when the airlines judge whether we frequent fliers have been good or naughty. Have we been faithful to our airline alliance and racked up the prerequisite points or mileage legs? Or have we cheated by taking seductive fares and turning our backs on our chosen partner? Or do we lead double lives and manage multiple alliances and try to manage all these relationships by giving each "just enough" without appearing duplicitous to our chosen airline programs?

This year's air adventures (business and family flights) took me to Stuttgart in April (business class/double mile bonus); Columbia and Charleston, S.C. in August (Alex's college run); Lisbon and Milan in October (another bonus flight) and San Diego in November (PRSA international conference where I spoke).

Heading into December, I was 5,600 miles short of the qualifying 50,000 miles to protect my gold elite status for the New Year. Already filled with angst about my illicit Jet Blue flight to The Bahamas with my son in August, I was thankful for a planned new business trip to Pittsburgh in mid-month which added 1,000 miles to my account. It left a 4,600 mile gap and threatened to downgrade me into becoming a lowly “silver” (the minimum elite rung) and not the coveted “gold” rank I currently held (or platinum -- the true holy grail). This sealed the deal for my wife and I to visit and “Remember the Alamo.”

And to what end? Elite status means choice seat selection including extra legroom seats, bulkheads and exit rows. It means no charge for checked or overweight baggage -- a meaningful perk these days as the airlines nickel and dime passengers for all service components once considered free.

Being elite also means that during the second round of boarding announcements, we get to walk the blue elite carpet to our seats -- past the scornful and envious eyes of regular passengers waiting to board the aircraft. The trek on board is less frenzied with a choice of overhead bins for the laptop, batteries, cables, DVDs and noise cancellation headphones we working passengers bring on board. It also means a fighting chance for the few remaining pillows and blankets (where they still are offered).

Most importantly, elite status means automatic upgrades – even for a traveling family member or colleague -- when space up-front permits. This is one serious perk!

That final trip, with a return home of December 30 (and little margin for error) in full fare economy, yielded a precious 2,353 elite qualifying miles each way -- enough to solidify my stature as a Continental Star Alliance gold for 2010. I returned to work on New Year’s Eve Day fulfilled in my year-long mission and proud of my newly won status.

As I await my new credentials for 2010, I take solace in the fact that my perks will continue for 12 more months. But I have this nagging little concern that it’s now one day closer to the 2011 deadline and I still have zero miles accumulated for silver, gold or platinum. Meet up in Hawaii, anyone?